By Sam Akpe
Uninformed comments have been made and questions raised on the court case instituted by Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume against President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
For those who call themselves Buharists, and believe that their political idol is untouchable, Araraume’s action amounts to a deliberate profanation of a sacred institution whose actions are unimpeachable.
A few days ago, certain unknown groups were rumoured to be planning a public protest and other illegal actions against the ruling of the Federal High Court in the case.
In addition, they were said to be preparing a release of some dooming information which they believe would expose Araraume’s perceived unpatriotic or criminal acts in attempts to nail him in the court of public opinion.
What bothers me most in all of these is that only a few people have dared to study the facts of the case and establish why Araraume took Buhari and NNPCL to court; and why the court gave that ruling in his favour.
Two words—right and privilege—govern appointment to public offices in Nigeria. It is your right because you are a Nigerian and are probably qualified. But except you are privileged or favoured by those in power, your qualifications will come to nothing.
That means besides your statutory qualifications, there must be something extra that works in your favour—academic attainment, industry experience, integrity, closeness to power, or ability to lobby or bribe your way through, among others.
But there are some Nigerians who enjoy both worlds without much effort. They have the qualifications and are equally highly favoured, based on undisclosed factors.
Such people are usually sought after whenever quality service is required. Perhaps, Senator Araraume is one of them. He is a Nigerian and is also privileged within the political circles.
Between 2018 and 2021, Araraume was appointed by President Buhari to serve on the boards of two juicy federal establishments.
First, he served as Commissioner at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and also represented the NCC on the board of Universal Service Provision Fund. In 2019, he voluntarily resigned to stand for election in his state.
On October 20th, 2021, Buhari again appointed Araraume to a higher office as a Non-Executive Chairman of the newly formed Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, based on the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act.
That appointment gave him the powers to spearhead the take-off of NNPCL, a limited liability company incorporated under the Allied Matters Act, 2020. It came with a fixed term of five years except where the board of the company sacks the appointee or he voluntarily resigns.
Shortly after the appointment, Araraume was said to have jealously embarked on functions associated with that office. Everything seemed to be working well as the new company took off seamlessly to fulfil its mission.
Araraume’s name is said to have been registered in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the NNPCL with the Corporate Affairs Commission in accordance with the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020. He assumed duties on November 12, 2021.
Certain official functions of the NNPCL, including its presence in the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in Houston, Texas, on December 4, 2021, had Araraume in attendance. He had started enjoying the luxury of his new appointment.
But the signs that something was wrong started to emerge when the scheduled November 23, 2021 inauguration of the board was postponed without reasons. No one asked questions because it was supposed to be merely a ceremonial event, not required by law.
Then something happened on January 7, 2022. President Buhari appointed someone else to replace Araraume. Wait a minute!
In Nigeria, it is often believed that he who hires can also fire. Here was Araraume, sitting at home and watching on television the inauguration of his successor while the totality of the instruments of that office was still with him.
Some days later, precisely on January 17, 2022, he was finally served a letter withdrawing his appointment. The letter, “approved” by the President, indicated that Buhari was exercising powers bestowed on him by unidentified laws.
Genuinely alarmed, Araraume read the letter line by line. I can figure his face twisting and concern spreading across his eyes as he went through the two-paragraph letter delivered to him personally at his private office in Abuja.
Nothing in that letter indicated why his appointment was withdrawn. With his little knowledge of the law guiding the establishment of NNPCL, Araraume said he was convinced that his removal from office was without any legal foundation or justification.
Let’s note that Araraume’s successor was appointed and inaugurated while Ararume was yet to be sacked or his appointment withdrawn.
That sounds quite humiliating and even bizarre. The other point to note is that Araraume’s removal from office was approved and executed by President Buhari and not the board of directors of the company. So, what does the law say?
While no one questioned the appointment of Ararume by President Buhari, the moment he got embarrassingly replaced or fired, people started asking distasteful questions and making inelegant suggestions.
It therefore became necessary for Araraume to find out why he was fired. If it did not mean a lot to him, the people around him were interested and curious, because his exit was loudly publicized and indecently questioned.
The unanswered question is: why was Ararume sacked from NNPCL? Going further, what does the law say about removal from such an office? Was the appointee at the mercy of the law or those who appointed him?
The answers to these questions have come in different shapes and contents. Most people depend on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution which gives the President the powers to appoint and fire board members of federal agencies.
Yes, that can happen even if it is wrong in law to do so. My concern is that NNPCL is no longer a wholly government-owned agency.
Araraume’s lawyers have cited Section 63(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act alongside Articles 21.3 and 21.4 of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the NNPCL, which state in clear terms the tenure of the board members, which is five years, subject to renewal for another five years.
The argument by the lawyers is that while the law permits the President to directly appoint the first set of directors of NNPCL, the same Section 63(3) and Section 288 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, specify conditions upon which any appointee should be sacked.
If the lawyers are to be believed, there was obviously no compliance with any of these provisions of the laws. I think the President was wrongly advised—just my thoughts.
This is because none of the laws cited above permits the president or any other individual to sack any board member, except such a person sacks him or herself through resignation.
What Araraume did next, based on legal advice, was to assemble a team of tested legal minds, led by four Senior Advocates of Nigeria, to study the circumstances of his appointment and removal from office and advise appropriately.
After hearing from his lawyers, he proceeded to court to challenge what he called “the lawless manner” of his removal from office and also seek damages.
Beyond the humiliation he claimed to have personally suffered, Araraume believed that President Buhari acted with “executive recklessness” when he interfered with the affairs of a limited liability company without regard to consequences.
I personally got interested in this case because it presents a rare occasion that an individual is challenging such executive recklessness by putting his reputation and even his safety on the line. Araraume has dared Buhari without regard to consequences.
His strongest reason for the protest is that his integrity has been called to question by the manner of his removal from the board of the company without any credible or cogent reason—in fact, no reason whatsoever was cited by the President.
So, he asked to be reinstated and paid some compensation. It was another way of saying: Mr. President, you now have opportunity to tell the world what I did wrong to justify this public humiliation and psychological trauma.
As soon as the case was mentioned in the media last year, someone told me that Ararume would be soon exposed and humiliated by government.
His argument was that Ararume must have committed serious crimes which government suddenly discovered and decided to sack him silently.
He continued: now that he has chosen to embarrass the President, watch out for what is going to happen.
So far, what has happened is that a court of competent jurisdiction has ruled on the matter in favour of Ararume. What about that!
In one of the articles published, one lawyer went as far as arguing that Araraume’s name was submitted to the Senate for screening and approval, and that the Senate found him unworthy of such appointment based on security reports.
That is absolutely false. As a limited liability company, the appointment of directors of NNPCL does not require Senate screening and approval. The President simply approved and caused the appointment to be made as directed by law. No Senate screening was required.
By the way, if President Buhari has earlier appointed Araraume as Commissioner at the NCC and later as board member of the Universal Service Provision Fund, a position he voluntarily resigned to seek elective office, then what suddenly happened?
The ruling by the Federal High Court in Abuja based on the applications submitted by Araraume’s legal team justified the assumptions made by the plaintiff, that his removal from office was not in line with procedures stated in laws governing such actions.
Besides asking for reinstatement and financial compensation, Araraume stepped forward to exercise his rights and clear his name from every kind of public misconception regarding his reputation and qualification to hold public office.
The court, in its wisdom granted most of the prayers contained in the petition. It demanded that the Araraume be reinstated and paid five billion naira as damages; because the office he occupied is “exclusively governed and regulated” by specified laws and that government could not sack him without compliance with such laws.
From all indications, the orders issued by the Federal High Court is just the beginning. This case will climb up to the Supreme Court where several technical and political issues will come into play.
My interest is that a precedent would at the end be established. A point must be made to guide government in appointing and relieving people of appointments without stating why such actions were taken.
Most times, people hide under the unexplainable cloak of ‘security reports’ to rubbish the integrity of others.
It is expected that before public appointments are made, every security issue concerning the appointee would have been settled. Where fresh findings or discoveries are made, the public should be duly informed, as it is done in other places.
Watch my lips, something tells me that President Muhammadu Buhari might not even have been aware of the non-procedural removal of Araraume from office after approving his appointment.
The Black Tax: Family Charges And Mandatory Payment
By Toyin Falola
You cannot be one rich man among your poor siblings and relations and not become poor. After all, you stole the destiny of six others to add to yours. Having made them poor, you must cater for them. Ogunde, my friend, built a house for his father and mum. You did well. On the day of house-warming Mama Ogunde called my friend to her room for a private discussion, advising him to buy a plot of land for his junior brother. The first tax has been paid, then the imposition of the second. Three months later, his sister called him to announce her wedding ceremony. Ogunde had to pay the third tax. Each time he calls me, Ogunde is lamenting the never-ending tax. Those payments, the mandated gift, and the exchanges are now what we call the “black tax”: it is the price you pay for knowing someone. Kinship was invented in an agricultural age for collective bonding and survival. Today, it is for purposes of tax collection with delivering public services. As you read this, you are either paying the tax or collecting it. Confess!
The African social system is unarguably built on the premises and strength of family and responsibilities. Society is built on collective responsibilities that spread even to every member of the society at large as a unit. This is why persons from the same village, like Umuahia, would always refer to their kinsmen as brothers or sisters merely because they have come from the same village or area. It is the sense of responsibility that bonds the African society that has been spelt out so eminently. But the question in this piece is not about the collective nature of the African communities but the responsibilities that follow from the family relationships, either for those within the same blood or the “village family.” The issue is of “black” tax; black here is not a racialized category.
Black tax is a phenomenon that has been brought to bear in the African society of today; the modern exposure has allowed questions raised on whether the cultures are of necessity or mere subjections that have resulted in the slow pace of individual developments or castigated some Africans’ invisible slavery. African men and women give, and they take care of theirs. But then there is just one successful person in an extended family: the act of giving moves from mere social responsibilities to social burdens.
Mikel Obi, a Nigerian footballer and a legend in the English Premier, recently lamented the plight of an average African. When you reach out to success and strive hard, you probably might face limited help from some of your family members. In fact, everyone is supposed to have his or her problems, and the contemporary conditions of African countries would actually justify their excuses. However, you could strive and become something without anything, but when that success comes, you have not achieved it for yourself or your immediate family; you have done so for almost everyone who carries the same last name as you, related by any measure of distance and acquaintances. The black tax must be paid.
The concept of the black tax probably originated from South Africa; it was seen as the returns black workers, in the past, sent to their families and relatives for upkeep. It should be understood that the apartheid South Africans were such that Africans and blacks were discriminated against and had only a few opportunities to contend with. Hence, the few of them who had the opportunity to work were seen, to some extent, to have been in such a position for their families that they could not have similar opportunities. I have been in the company of people from Lesotho in South Africa, returning home with the Black tax. Many people from Zimbabwe living in South Africa pay it. In my heavy luggage to Lagos, only the contents of the carry-on belong to me; the rest is black tax. I pay it routinely. Recipients even now include chefs, drivers, and Malam the Gateman.
Like the Brown Tax in the Latino communities, the Black Tax spread across Africa as a general description of family relations for every black. It is seen as an obligation, and the person who sends it must do something as a necessity. Those who are the beneficiaries sometimes develop a sense of belonging and claim over the income of the individual.
Let’s address the culture. African cultures are beautiful, and the idea of taking responsibility for one’s immediate family, at least, is born out of the many philosophies that formed the foundations of the African society, from Ubuntu to Omoluabi to the collectivism orientations that have cut across the African societies; one would understand why the contemporary society should not quickly run into the mistake of casting the habit as a forbidden practice.
We must understand that new cultures and the contemporarily subscribed behaviours born out of overbearing cultural diffusions gotten from excessive universalism have been gradually killing the bonds that the African societies have for each other. It has increased selfishness and made the act of philanthropism, which was initially a social necessity, become out of the ordinary.
At what point should one say that the black tax is bad, and to what extent would the African circumstances create the limit? Are African parents truly entitled to the success of their children? Often than not, an average African parent assigns a primary purpose of nurturing and sacrificing their lives for their children. It is an African thing for parents to forego what they need the most in order to allow their kids a needed opportunity or resources that would put them in the right positions. In the pre-European interference era in Africa, what was paramount was to ensure that a child had the right skill as well as the right behaviour, but the parents were always on the watch to ensure that akosejaye, the written destiny, of a child is fulfilled to the fullest and they were ready to make any type of sacrifices. This mentality was carried on when the new order of definition of what success meant arose across Africa. Education and other resources must be attained, and the mothers would not mind selling their biggest clothes or properties to ensure that these voids were filled. The culture prevailed over time and is still predominant in the African society of today. Children in every African household became an ambition and duty that nothing would negotiate the commitments to them. Many African parents have continued working in toxic environments; many have lost their health or become disabled from the wares they sell in traffic jams and the hustles and bustles of places like Oyingbo Market.
Basically, to an African parent, a child is an investment and future insurance for old age and moments where one’s effort would not be enough to feed or meet necessary needs. The African family institutions are different from many other parts of the world. One would then ask whether the “wokeness” conceptions would justify taking such future expectations wrong. For anyone a parent has sacrificed for, there is a level of expectation from them, and I do not think contemporariness should be reason enough to remove that responsibility. This goes down to immediate family like siblings who have followed the rough paths with one.
My point is not that one must give without control or that every ‘ask’ should never be met with a ‘no’; otherwise, one would never move to the point of self-actualization. However, the first condition to be put to black tax is the measure of sacrifice the potential beneficiary had made. This separates responsibility from mere philanthropy. It is a measure to keep one’s circle small and reduce unnecessary ‘billings.’ Young Africans who are growing must understand that what comes first is themselves, the means to secure their future, and after all personal or immediate needs have been covered, those that we owe come in, but it should never be at the expense of one’s development. One must know that the greatest responsibility owed is that that guarantees growth.
The above is also not to say that we should kill the African culture of giving. There are many individuals to be lifted out of poverty. The continent today is positioning itself as a proper headquarters of poverty and as such, it cannot afford to stop all the help it could get. However, one must ensure that giving should be out of abundance. Abundance is indeed the remainder from excesses and should never affect fundamentals, secondary, and even tertiaries. It is an act out of comfort. So, the black tax may not be an unnecessary social responsibility, but instead, some level of necessity and discharge of appreciation to those who have made tangible sacrifices in our lives. Evaluate your black tax; instead of complaining to me as Ogunde does every other day, he should review the list and delete the names of several recipients. As I told him yesterday, why not use part of the tax to take me out?
Obama, Clooney, And Gates Should Include Witch Persecution InTheir Campaign
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) welcomes the collaboration between the foundations of Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and Melinda French Gates to end child marriage in Africa. These foundations have committed to ending this practice within a generation. This initiative, announced during their recent visit to Malawi and South Africa, demonstrates the urgency that such a harmful traditional and cultural practice demands. Child marriage is a sore on the conscience of humanity. It violates the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. Culture, tradition, or religion should not be used to excuse or justify practices that undermine the humanity of women and girls. So it was a great relief to know that these influential women would be working together to combat this menace.
At the same time, AfAW wants to draw the attention of Obama, Clooney, and Gates to another practice that is undermining the rights of women in Africa: witch persecution. Witchcraft accusation is pervasive in Malawi and other parts of the region. Witchcraft accusation is a gendered phenomenon that predominantly targets women and girls. Those accused of witchcraft are tortured, banished, or murdered in cold blood. In Malawi and other parts of the region, accused women are raped, stoned to death, or lynched. Many accused women are banished and forced to live in make-shift shelters called witch camps in Ghana’s Northern region. In Malawi and the Central African Republic, the accused are imprisoned, or flee to live in prisons to avoid being killed. Rooted in traditional and cultural beliefs, witch hunting is another vicious phenomenon which they said would not be eradicated.
This misperception should be rejected and discarded. This mistaken assumption has prevented international organizations including the UN from treating the problem of witch persecution with the urgency that it deserves. This misrepresentation has made the world ignore and look away while women and sometimes girls are accused, abused, abandoned, or savagely killed in the name of witchcraft. As in the case of child marriage, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches believes that witch persecution can end within a generation. The problem can be solved or resolved in a matter of years. AfAW is working and campaigning to rally national and international political will against witch hunting. That was why the organization announced in 2020 a decade of activism against witch persecution in Africa.
AfAW urges Obama, Clooney, and Gates to join efforts in stopping witch persecution of women and girls. They should know that the girls they are trying to save from being married away as children could end up being stoned to death or buried alive for witchcraft. Obama, Clooney, and Gates should include witch-hunting in their campaign because the practice is rooted in gender injustice and misogyny. The foundations should know that women are likely to suffer child marriages when they are young and witch persecution when they are growing old. So they should not focus on one and ignore the other. To effectively protect and defend the rights of women and girls, they should tackle both child marriage and witch-hunting . The foundations should commit to ending practices that violate the rights of women, whether they are young or old, children or adults.
Dr Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, which campaigns to end witch persecution in Africa by 2030.
Powering Prosperity: Unlocking Nigeria’s Potential Through U.S. Partnership
By David Greene
Nigeria is on track to be the world’s fourth-most populous country by 2050. It already has the largest economy in Africa and, with 60 percent of its population under the age of 25, it stands on the threshold of a demographic dividend that can dramatically transform its economy for the better. Nigeria’s strategic partnerships are essential in harnessing this potential, and the United States is playing a leading role. As we near the six-month mark of President Tinubu’s administration, our relationship has emerged as a key for success. One year ago, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, President Biden renewed our commitment to deepening engagement across the continent. Here is how we are doing that in Nigeria – working in areas that matter most to everyday citizens, such as growing the economy, strengthening democracy, improving health outcomes, ensuring security, and addressing the climate crisis.
Nigeria’s economic potential is vast, and with the right macroeconomic framework, a sound fiscal strategy, and a strong commitment to rooting out corruption, it can become a preferred destination for foreign direct investment. American investors and companies are eager to engage with Nigeria, and the United States government is doing its utmost to build our bilateral trade and investment ties.
Consider these examples: We have joined forces to accelerate Nigeria’s digital transformation, with investments from U.S. tech giants such as Microsoft, Cisco, Meta, Google, and Starlink. This partnership has built a platform to train unemployed and underemployed women and youth. Moreover, it has been a catalyst for quality investment, accounting for more than a quarter of all venture capital flowing into Africa.
Collaborative efforts in agriculture further underscore our commitment. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently dedicated $22 million to strengthen Nigeria’s cocoa value chain, supporting more than 60,000 cocoa farmers, processors, marketers, and other agribusiness service providers in what is Nigeria’s #2 foreign exchange-earning export. From tech to agriculture, these steps go beyond statistics. They translate into tangible outcomes: good jobs, seed money for new ventures, and higher-value agricultural exports.
The United States is also a steadfast partner in strengthening Nigeria’s health sector. With World AIDS Day – December 1 – approaching, it is worth recalling that over the past two decades, PEPFAR, the leading U.S. initiative to address HIV/AIDS, has invested nearly $8 billion in Nigeria, providing more than 1.6 million individuals with life-saving HIV treatment. In response to COVID-19, the United States donated more than 44 million vaccine doses, helping the Nigerian government approach its target vaccination rate of 70 percent of the eligible population. Partnerships like the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, with an annual budget of more than $71 million, have reduced child death rates and strengthened health systems.
Those investments are just part of our overall development assistance to Nigeria. In fiscal year 2022 alone, the U.S. government allocated over $1.2 billion dollars in such support. These funds provide humanitarian assistance, and improve health, economic development, education, social services, democracy, human rights and governance, and peace and security.
In the latter two areas – democracy and security – we aim to support an inclusive future where Nigerian citizens’ votes count and translate into responsive governance, and where they can live in peace. We are a steadfast partner in seeking to strengthen election processes that will enhance accountability to meet citizens’ expectations, and pursuing innovative projects to help communities resolve differences without violence. Through cooperation with and training of Nigeria’s military and police, we are building more capable forces. Collaborating with civil society, law enforcement, and the judiciary, we are confronting the security challenges that stand in the way of economic growth while upholding a shared commitment to human rights. Initiatives include building Nigeria’s counter-terrorism capacity, bringing technology to courtrooms and case-management systems to help in the administration of justice and reduce pre-trial detention, and supporting efforts to enhance accountability and transparency in police forces.
Our partnership to address the climate crisis reflects our mutual recognition of this challenge, and our respect for Nigeria’s role as both an energy producer and a country profoundly impacted by the effects of climate change. In the leadup to COP28 – the 28th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, which begins this week – the United States and Nigeria are aggressively seeking solutions. For example, U.S. support for Nigeria’s leadership as a Global Methane Pledge champion has led to action that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the benefit of all.
These programs and cooperative efforts advance a joint agenda that is built and driven by the highest levels of our leadership. President Biden met with President Tinubu in September, and numerous senior U.S. officials have come to Nigeria in recent months to confer on meeting Nigeria’s energy needs, driving U.S. trade and investment in Nigeria, and strengthening our law enforcement cooperation. These engagements strengthen our ties, address Nigeria’s pressing needs, and tackle shared challenges.
Ultimately, realizing Nigeria’s potential hinges upon enhancing its fiscal and economic health – and capitalizing on its strategic partnerships to build on that foundation. The opportunity has never been greater. Nigeria, with its youth, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit, is poised to seize this moment. We commend the government for its bold actions thus far to try to move the economy to a more solid footing. The United States is your partner in that effort – through investment, better security, a stronger workforce, and resilient institutions – that benefits all Nigerians and expands prosperity for both our peoples. Our journey ahead has its obstacles, of course. But together we will find a path toward a shared prosperity.
. Greene is Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. United States Embassy Abuja.
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